Up to the end of the current decade, the Minnesota Timberwolves promise to be one of the NBA’s most intriguing teams. But can they be a safe bet in the present as well as the future?
After an 8-8 start, it was all looking quite promising after a young crew still toiling with the preseason death of head coach Flip Saunders. Ricky Rubio had finally acquired a reliable jump shot. Karl-Anthony Towns looked like a prospective Rookie of the Year. And Andrew Wiggins had the appearance of a future All Star rather than retreating into a sophomore slump.
Then the T-Wolves hit a four-game skid, including home drops to Portland and Orlando. But after sneaking a single-point win in OT over the woeful Lakers on Wednesday, is the blip at an end?
That marked the start of six games in succession against sub-.500 opponents – normally a boon although Minny is just 3-5 against fellow strugglers. But the Timberwolves are 7-7 when scoring over 100 and all but one of their upcoming foes (the Knicks) is giving up over 102 per game.
Looking at the trends, they’re also 7-2 when leading rivals in field goal percentage. Sam Mitchell’s team travel to the Denver Nuggets on Friday and, at 1.87 for the win, there’s a clear superiority on that front, even if Rubio has plunged from shooting 48% in October’s opening stint to a horrible 22% this month.
But they’ve a solid core around the Spaniard, especially when he is paired with Wiggins and Zach LaVine - and Towns has become a little more trusted defensively in late games. So it’s worth looking at a -4.5 handicap in Denver and going over 205.5 total points at 2.28.
Sunday’s trip onward to the Phoenix Suns could prove more testing with the hosts winning two straight after losing eight of their previous nine. Yet with Tyson Chandler still out, the T-Wolves have a shot at dimming the Suns.
Best bet: Take Minnesota on the handicap of -4.5 over Denver at 2.48